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A Jovial Crew


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AT: The Merry Beggars A: Richard Brome Pf: 1641, London Pb: 1652 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: Mapledown, Kent, and the environs, at an indeterminate (late medieval?) period C: 22m, 4f, extrasSquire Oldrents, a charitable old gentleman, is made unhappy by a prophecy that his daughters will become beggars. He is also worried that his steward Springlove may return to his life as a vagabond. Indeed, in spring, when the beggars who have been sheltered by Oldrents over the winter take to the road again, not only are they joined by Springlove but also by Oldrents's two daughters and their sweethearts. Life as a beggar is not as romantic and free as the young people had dreamed. An eloping couple who join the beggars fall out of love with each other, and Springlove wins the girl for himself. Returning to Oldrents, all are forgiven for running away. Springlove is discovered to be Oldrents's illegitimate son, and the three couples prepare for marriage.

AT: The Merry Beggars A: Richard Brome Pf: 1641, London Pb: 1652 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: Mapledown, Kent, and the environs, at an indeterminate (late medieval?) period C: 22m, 4f, extras

Brome served as an apprentice to Ben Jonson, but retains none of the mordant satire of the older writer. Indeed, Pepys described this light-hearted comedy as ‘the most innocent play’ that he had ever seen. Ironically, but perhaps predictably, in the year before the Puritan closing of the theatres, this comedy is pervaded by nostalgia for an earlier time, when it was possible to play at being a jolly beggar and suffer nothing worse than an uncomfortable night and an empty belly and to be saved by the beneficence of a country squire. A musical version of 1731 achieved great success.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Richard Brome (c. 1590—1652) playwright


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